Reflections on Veritatis Splendor by Alfred McBride, O.Praem. To review books by Fr. Mc Bride: (The Millennium : End of Time? a New Beginning? (1998--$8.76), Father McBride's Family Catechism (1998--$7.96) or Father McBride's Teen Catechism (1996--$7.19) at our on-line book store, click on the blue.

How much do you really need?

  there is no life without temptation. And the best way to resist temptation is self-discipline. Leo Tolstoy’s, How Much Land Does a Man Need? is a case in point. A peasant named Pahom worked hard and honestly for his family, but he owned no land. He heard a neighbor lady was going to sell her farm. Pahom and his wife decided to use their small savings to buy the land.

He loved his new property and became prosperous and joyful. One day a visitor came and told him about new land for sale beyond the Volga. Pahom now felt his little farm was too small. So he sold his small holding and bought a big plot. But even here he was not satisfied. He wanted to sow more wheat, so he rented extra land for three years.

Then one day he met a traveler from the land of the Bashkirs who had bought thirteen acres of land for only one thousand rubles. Pahom drooled at the thought. He again sold his property and moved with his family to the new land. The chiefs came out to see him. He asked about buying property. He was told: "As much as you can run round on your feet in a day will be yours. But if you don’t complete the circle you lose your money."

Pahom agreed and made plans for the run. With a shovel he would dig holes to mark the perimeter. He started out at sunrise. As the day progressed he widened the circle of land ever further, but he also grew hot and tired and then panicked. As the sun was disappearing, Pahom ran furiously back to the starting point, his heart hammering. He arrived back just in time and fell to the ground - dead. His servant picked up his shovel and dug a grave for Pahom. Six feet of land, from his head to his heels, was all he needed.

Greed is a devouring temptation. "But temptations can be overcome, sin can be avoided, because together with the commandments the Lord gives us the possibility of keeping them.... Keeping God’s law in particular situations can be difficult ... but it is never impossible.... Man always has before him the spiritual horizon of hope, thanks to the help of divine grace and with the cooperation of human freedom" (Nos. 102-103).

Today’s culture is far more pessimistic than the Church about victory over temptation to evil. The culture capitulates to evil in two ways: first, by claiming the sin is not so bad after all; second, by promoting evil means to avoid evil.

This is the philosophy that supports abortion, euthanasia, contraceptive devices, and even the teaching of masturbation to teenagers. The culture calls this compassion. But what kind of compassion murders the unborn and the old? What compassion considers there is no moral character possible for the young? This is not compassion. This is contempt.

The culture condemns the Church for lacking compassion. Yet the Church offers the mercy of God and the promise of real human conversion, change, and moral growth.

"Appropriate allowance is made both for God’s mercy toward the sin of the man who experiences conversion and for the understanding of human weakness. Such understanding never means compromising and falsifying the standard of good and evil.... It is quite human for the sinner to acknowledge his weakness and to ask mercy for his failings. What is unacceptable is the attitude of one who makes his own weakness the criterion of the truth about the good, so that he can feel self-justified, without even the need to have recourse to God and His mercy" (No. 104).

The culture has tricked people into making sin the standard and the law of God a compassionless rule. It has exalted weakness into the norm for living and has taken the life of morality away from human conscience.

In the 1960s, civil-rights activists sang, "We shall overcome." That was - and is - the human and faith-filled way to act. It is also Jesus’ message: "Be not afraid! Have hope! I have overcome the world!" Listen to his message. Let him change you.

  These syndicated articles are copyrighted by Our Sunday Visitor and are purchased with donations made to the Friends of the Good News who support this newsletter. Fr. McBride writes for Our Sunday Visitor. All quoted matter is from the encyclical, unless otherwise indicated. 1998 Our Sunday Visitor. Used by subcription. This article appeared in the May l999 edition of The San Francisco Charismatics (ISSN 1098-4046) a member of the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada.
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